Video game sales are soaring as Americans seek diversion and social connection while confined to their homes by the coronavirus pandemic.

NPD Group reported Friday that consumer spending on video gaming in the U.S. reached a record $10.86 billion in the first quarter of 2020, an increase of 9% from a year ago.

Content sales rose 11% to $9.58 billion, with gains spanning digital console and PC content, mobile and subscription spending, as well as the hardware and accessories categories.

“As people have stayed at home more, they’ve utilized gaming not only as a diversion and an escape, but also as a means of staying connected with family and friends,” NPD gaming analyst Mat Piscatella said in a news release. “Whether it was on console or mobile, PC or virtual reality, gaming experienced play and sales growth during the first quarter.”

Top-sellers in the first quarter include Animal Crossing. The game, a simulation in which the player can create an idyllic existence by building homes and selling turnips, has broken sales records and become a cultural phenomenon.

Animal Crossing’s success helped drive sales of Nintendo’s Switch console in spite of supply issues, TechCrunch said, adding, “The title arrived just in the nick of time for stay-at-home orders in the U.S., delivering a kind of front-facing social experience that much of the competition lacks.”

According to NPD, strong growth in Switch hardware and game sales helped to offset declines across other  platforms, leading the overall hardware market to increase 2% to $773 million in the first quarter. Sales of video game accessories, including gamepads, headsets, cases and other peripherals increased 1%, reaching $503 million.

Hardware sales should get a boost in the fall when Sony and Microsoft are expected to release the next versions of their respective consoles, PlayStation and Xbox.

Also in the pipeline is at least one pandemic-related game. CovidTale:Ignorance promises to “relive the COVID-19 experience” from a “third-person perspective … Sit back and find out how it all may or may not [have] happened.”

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

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